Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Does Violent Crime Impact Economic Mobility?

http://www.citylab.com; August 22, 2017

Hello Everyone:

Today we are going to take a look at the impact of violent crime on economic mobility.  Once again before we get going, some agenda items.  First, shame on you Mr. Donald Trump for blaming Puerto Rico for the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria.  Never mind that Houston's shoddy urban planning greatly contributed to the massive damage done by Hurricane Irma.  Mr. Trump, instead of tweeting about nonsense like football players #takingaknee during the National Anthem how about focusing your limited attention span on restoring the infrastructure to Puerto Rico.  Puerto Ricans are our fellow citizens.  Second, today is September 26, 2017 and the October 5th DACA renewal deadline is a little over a week away.  You must go to uscis.gov immediately and fill out the application.  Good luck.  Now on to today's subject.

Traditionally American children-by extension children around the world-strive to do better than their parents generation.  However, the sad truth is contemporary young Americans are the first generation not do better than their parents.  Richard Florida points out in his CityLab article "Violent Crime's Toll on Economic Mobility," "In fact, Americans occupy two separate worlds when it comes to moving up the economic ladder.  A small minority of us, anywhere from a fifth to a third who come from advantage backgrounds, can  expect economic mobility on par with any advanced nation."  However, "...tragically, anywhere from two-thirds to 80 percent of Americans who are in less advantaged situations will see their economic prospects be as limited as those in the developing world."  Family income level is one determinant in one's ability to move up the economic ladder; the place where we are raised plays large part in our ability to do better than our parents according to new research by Raj Chetty et al. titled The fading American Dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940. (science.sciencemag.org; April 24, 2017; date accessed Sept. 25, 2017)

A new study published in the Journal of Urban Economics, The effect of violent crime on economic mobility by Patrick Sharkey and Gerard Torrats-Espinosa provides additional determinants that may contribute to the economic mobility gap.  Mr. Sharkey, a New York University sociologist and one of the world's foremost scholars on crime and poverty and his co-author, Mr. Espinosa, an NYU doctoral student, argue "...violent crime has played a significant role in the very different chances at economic mobility facing people from advantaged versus disadvantaged communities."

We all know that exposure to violence is bad for children, the Sharkey-Torrats-Espinosa research is the first one that follows the link between violent crime and children's chances for getting out of poverty.  The study comes at time when urban crime has dramatically declined in many cities across the U.S.  Mr. Florida poses this central question: "Did that crime decline make a difference in the ability of kids from disadvantaged areas to move up the economic ladder?"

The NYU study builds upon the Chetty et al research incorporating mobility data from their oft cited Equality of Opportunity Projects, which followed the economic mobility of about 40 million children born between 1980 and 1986 in 1,335 American counties.  The co-authors compared their information on teenagers's exposure to violent crime from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report and the National Archive.  "It looks specifically at the association between places teenagers 14 to 17 are exposed to violent crime and their subsequent economic position as adults."  Mr. Florida continues, "...it is impossible to completely ferret out the impact of violent crime on economic mobility  from other social forces, but the study controlled for a wide array of factors that are expected to affect economic mobility...race and ethnicity, poverty, education attainment, and unemployment, as well as improvement in policing."

The main conclusion from the study "is that violent crime plays a significant role in Americans' prospects for economic mobility."  The NYU study found that the economic opportunities of low-income children-i.e. those who grow up in the bottom fifth of the economic tier-are the most severely impacted by violent crime.  Ironically, they are the very same children who benefit greatly from the decline of violent crime in their communities.

Patrick Sharkey told Richard Florida via email:

The key point is that when violent crime fall, a kid's chances of moving up out of poverty begin to grow pretty rapidly.

Somehow, this does not surprise Blogger because when violent crime falls, a child has a better chance of attending school and investment in community development increases.  This is just Blogger's own opinion. 

Regardless, Mr. Florida points out, "Statistically speaking, one standard deviation decline in violent crime crime experienced during a child's formative years increased their project adult position on the income distribution by at least two points."  Quoting Mr. Sharkey, Mr. Florida writes, "That's essentially the difference between growing up in Chicago with its high crime rate and Denver where the crime is lower."  Although the NYU study is limited to children born between 1980 and 1986, the impact of a decline in violent crime on their lives was considerable.

Mr. Sharkey continued,

In a place where violent crime was falling, a child born in 1986 had a better chance of moving out of poverty when he or she reached adulthood.

Combine this with the fact that the crime decline in some communities has been dramatic: "The annual homicide total in New York has dropped from a high of roughly 2,100 to around 300."  Mr. Sharkey added, 

In neighborhood where crime has dropped like that, the life chances of kids who start in poverty have also been transformed.

Richard Florida points out, and Blogger concurs, "There are several ways in which violent crime can limit economic mobility."  One determinant of upward mobility is education.  A child threatened at school may decide to drop out.  Mr. Florida makes note of a study that looked at the connection between the rate of violent crime and the high school dropout rate.  He writes, "A 10 percent increase in violent crimes is associate with a 0.5 percent increase in the high school dropout rate, while a 10 percent increase in the murder rate is associated with an even greater 0.9 percent increase in the high school dropout rate."

No shock here that higher levels of violence are motivation for advantaged families to move out of troubled neighborhoods, generating a cycle of more decay and decline, leaving the less advantaged behind.  

Richard Florida concludes with this thought, "Of course this study [Patrick-Torrats-Espinosa] track the period of the 'great crime decline' when violent crime was decreasing across the United States and fewer places had extremely high violent crime rates."  As we all know from following the daily digest of current events, violent crime and murder have been trending upward in several cities.  Consider this, "How much worse might the economic prospects of growing up in the least advantaged places be if crime starts to tick upward.

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